We’ll take this week to talk about how smallmouth bass populations have expanded around the country, why their numbers are increasing, and why they’re likely to become even more popular over time.
According to the U. S. Geological Survey the native range of our brown bass friends was limited to the, “St. Lawrence and Great Lakes, Hudson Bay (Red River), and Mississippi River basins from southern Quebec to North Dakota and south to northern Alabama and eastern Oklahoma; Atlantic and Gulf slope drainages from Virginia to central Texas.”
But that was a long time ago. Now they’re just about everywhere. The reasons for their expansion are many. Part of it has to do with our country opening up waterways. That lets fish move around a lot more. Another is DNR agencies stocking these fish because of their popularity with anglers. And a third probably has to do with anglers becoming more mobile, which helps move fish around.
On top of this movement, the populations are generally healthy and thriving. Again, the reasons are many. They include better management, better water quality and the ageing of our reservoirs.
The reservoir issue is especially interesting to us anglers. It’s no secret that we aren’t building them anymore. That means the ones we have are getting older every day. With that age comes rotting timber and less structure and cover. (I know there are exceptions to what I just said — especially when it comes to weed growth — but it’s generally true.) As a group, our waters are becoming more open.
That’s OK with most smallmouth bass. They do very well in deep, open water living in schools and chasing open-water baitfish. They don’t need shallow, weed filled bays to survive. A few drops, old channels and rocks will do them just fine. Conditions like that might make them a little harder to catch but they still provide great angling opportunities for anyone willing to work a little harder.
If you doubt any of what I just said take a close look at the Great Lakes and their surrounding waters. I won’t start an argument here by giving you my opinion of which one is best. I will say, though, that the catches coming out of that part of the country are almost beyond belief. Five pounders are common, and it’ll take a 7 pounder to turn heads at the dock.
At the same time, healthy smallmouth bass populations are in many of the small streams around the country. That’s good news for anglers, too. These fish can be caught close to home with a minimum of tackle and expertise. These streams are being better cared for and preserved, so the good fishing is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.
As I look into our future as smallmouth anglers, I see nothing but good staring us in the face. Who can complain about an expanding population of fish, better management, cleaner water and more overall smallmouth bass fishing opportunities?
Next week we’ll talk about how to match lures to water temperatures and the prevailing forage.